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Top 10: Best Director & Actor pairings of 2007 (Repeat Offenders)

Today’s Top Ten looks at the best director/actor pairings of the year. More specifically, we are looking at directors and actors who have continued to foster their relationship over the years in the cinematic field – providing us viewers with examples of magical collaborations on screen. I could cite at least 250 other significant relationships of the sort from the past 9 decades of film history, everyone from Dietrich and von Sternberg, Fellini and wife Giulietta Masina, Hitchcock and his slew of muses aka leading ladies, Bergman and Ullmann, Antonioni and Monica Vitti and to Scorsese and DeNiro or Scorsese and DiCaprio. Note sequels and trilogies were not taken into consideration. Enjoy the list!

Today’s Top Ten looks at the best director/actor pairings of the year. More specifically, we are looking at directors and actors who have continued to foster their relationship over the years in the cinematic field – providing us viewers with examples of magical collaborations on screen. I could cite at least 250 other significant relationships of the sort from the past 9 decades of film history, everyone from Dietrich and von Sternberg, Fellini and wife Giulietta Masina, Hitchcock and his slew of muses aka leading ladies, Bergman and Ullmann, Antonioni and Monica Vitti and to Scorsese and DeNiro or Scorsese and DiCaprio. Note sequels and trilogies were not taken into consideration. Enjoy the list!

Judd Apatow

10. Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen

The first met in the late 90’s when Seth Rogen was one among many actors starring in the short-lived NBC television series called Freaks and Geeks. Flash forward to 2005, and Rogen gets a supporting homey part in the Steve Carrel blockbuster kneeslapper The 40 Year Old Virgin. After that monster success, Apatow rolled the dice with Rogen as the lead pitcher for Knocked Up. The rest as they say is history. Also part of the dynamic is actor Paul Rudd. This is definitely a relationship in full bloom.

James Gray

9. James Gray/Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix

It was seven years ago when James Gray cued up-and-coming talents Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix for his sophomore feature – a dark backyard thriller called The Yards. Flash forward seven years later at the Cannes film festival and the trio are presenting We Own the Night – an imperfect drama that had some great potential.

8. Danny Boyle and Cillian Murphy

After many years with Scot Ewan McGregor by his side, Danny Boyle has found that the talent pool also includes the Irish (as in the actor going by he name of Cillian Murphy). In 2002, Murphy was running away from the living dead and in 2007 he was running away from aliens in sci-fi film Sunshine.

7. Philippe Garrel and Louis Garrel

The people or film’s mentioned in this selection might be recognizable to about 15 people who saw the black & white, French auteur film starring a father and son team of the Garrels. Festival winner and art-house favorite Les Amants réguliers was not their first union but rather their second. Louis Garrel actually got his start in film all the way back to 1989’s Les Baisers de secours (Emergency Kisses) under the direction of his pops – Philippe Garrel. The younger Garrel has worked on his craft ever since working independently – many of you might recognize him from Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.

6. Mads Mikkelsen and Susanne Bier

From a small in scale country called Denmark, this pair of Danes fly high into Hollywood territory. Before heading into Things We Lost in the Fire, Bier and Mikkelsen (Casino Royale 007 villain) returned to the equivalent of having open heart surgery with the drenched in drama Dane film After the Wedding. 5 years back when Dogme was on its final legs, Mikkelsen played the lead role in Elsker dig for evigt (2002) aka Open Hearts.

5. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe

Their partnership first began with Gladiator in 2000 but after last year’s forgettable Rom-Com misfire A Good Year, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe gave it a third try in the testosterone-driven American Gangster.

4. Wes Anderson/ Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray

Wes Anderson likes exploring similar themes with the same distinctive style and layout and a facet of his creativity is to reuse the same players for key roles. It’s safe to say that Anderson, the Wilson bros. and Bill Murray are stuck at the limb. In fact, since Anderson first cast his friend in his short film called Bottle Rocket and the pair have worked on together on every single picture excluding The Royal Tenenbaums where there was only place for one Wilson brother (Luke). This year’s release saw Jason Schwartzman come back into the fold for a second appearance in an Anderson film and Bill Murray showed his face for a 4th consecutive time, but Owen played musical chairs with Murray taking up much more screen time in The Darjeeling Limited than in 04’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Joe Wright

3. Joe Wright and Keira Knightley 

There is something about Keira Knightley that makes her an easy choice for period dramas – and when Brit director Joe Wright needed his female protagonist for a WWI set drama then he looked no further than the lead player that starred in his 05 feature adaptation for Pride & Prejudice. Draped in emerald green and baby blue nurse garb, Knightley was more than just an accessory for Atonement. The duo also worked on a 2007 shooting for Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle perfume.

2. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

This year’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street saw two regular Burton staples coming back for more. We had Helena Bonham-Carter making it number 5 with hubby Burton and we had a remarkable 6th collaboration with the A-list actor. Burton first put Johnny Depp in costume almost two decades ago in 1990’s Edward Scissorhands. The teamwork in Ed Wood (94) and Sleepy Hollow (99) are perhaps what fans point to the most when we name Burton and Depp in the same breath. More recently duo paired for double pics in 2005 with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

1. David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen

You see it in the junkets and press conferences that these two get along on both a professional and personal level. Two years back, A History of Violence is where individual work ethics were forged together and this year Mortensen researched his role extensively to provide his mobster’s strong-arm character with additional depth in Eastern Promises. I guess it helps when both direct and actor value what each other brings to the table.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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